BCG Henderson Institute

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A year before the COVID-19 outbreak, we argued in Winning the ’20s that the basis of competitive advantage was shifting. The combination of technology-fueled change, the rise of new learning technologies, and declining long-term growth rates, which require accelerated innovation, called for companies to compete on their rate of learning.

We proposed that this would require new hybrid learning organizations combining both AI and human ingenuity, a more effective approach to changeleveraging human diversity for resilience and innovation, and the creation of trusted, purposeful organizations.

These imperatives have not been overturned by the pandemic. Indeed, they will be reinforced by it. COVID-19 has made every organization aware of the limits of its ability to learn quickly in an extremely fast-moving environment, in which ten days of hesitation can lead to the quadrupling of infections and to an escalation of business and societal disruption. Resilience is no longer a theoretical concern: companies and countries have been made painfully aware of the fragility of the critical systems upon which they depend. And crisis has created a need for companies and governments to demonstrate that their purpose and values are not just hollow words written in better times.

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